February 15, 2006,
Given the February 5 escape of 23 convicted Islamic extremists from a Yemeni prison, how can America and its allies in the war on terror keep Muslim murderers incarcerated? The answer, ironically, lies on Liberty Street. Five stories below Manhattan's financial district, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York stores some $90 billion worth of gold belonging to 60 foreign governments and central banks. These clients believe their bullion is safer under American stewardship than on their own soil.
Similarly, America should turn the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, into an international terrorist depository. Any nation that decides its own Islamo-fascists would be more secure under Navy supervision should be invited to leave them at Gitmo. Since America is terrorist Enemy No. 1, it would be wise for the U.S. to house these killers at no expense to depositing countries. Indeed, Washington even might pay each arriving terrorist's home country a cash reward for letting the Navy isolate these anti-American butchers someplace where they can do no harm.
This reverse-rendition policy should begin at once. The problem of terrorist jailbreaks is even worse than it appears. The Center for Security Policy (CSP) helped me document a dozen instances since September 11, 2001, when at least 138 suspected or convicted Muslim terrorists have fled from behind bars in Afghanistan, Russia, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Yemen. Collectively, these killers have murdered at least 328 individuals and injured 518 others.
"This number is probably far too low, as there undoubtedly have been cases that were not made public," says Robert T. McLean, a CSP research associate.
These 12 breakouts alone paint a frightening portrait of Islamic killers who have outwitted their jailers and, in some cases, slipped loose with the active assistance of their guards.
1) February 5, 2006: 23 convicted terrorists escaped from the high-security headquarters of Yemen's military intelligence agency in the capitol of Sanaa. They traversed a 460-foot tunnel that exited through the quieter women's section of a nearby mosque. At least 13 of these convicts are al Qaeda members, including American Jaber Elbaneh, 39, charged in 2002 for belonging to an al Qaeda cell in Lackawanna, New York.
Fawaz Yahya al-Rabeei also is on the lam. Interpol believes he helped blow up the French tanker Limburg on October 6, 2002. That explosion killed a Bulgarian sailor and poured 90,000 barrels of petroleum into the Gulf of Aden. He was convicted of firing at a helicopter owned by a Texas-based oil company on November 3, 2002, slightly injuring two Hunt Corp. employees as they flew over Yemen. He also triggered a car bomb at the headquarters of Yemen's Civil Aviation & Meteorology Authority.
Yet another top al Qaeda operative who disappeared is Jamal Ahmed Mohammed Ali al-Badawi, mastermind of the October 12, 2000, attack on the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen's port of Aden. That assault on a Navy destroyer killed 17 American sailors and injured at least 40 others. This was Badawi's second escape from Yemeni custody; he also participated in an April 11, 2003, group departure from an Aden detention facility, also run by Yemeni military intelligence.
"This man has escaped twice, and that means he has a strong network of supporters outside prison," an anonymous Arab security official said in the February 7 Newsday. "It could also mean that he has received assistance from within the security agencies."
Interpol secretary-general Ronald Noble warned of these fugitives: "Unless the world community commits itself to tracking them down, they will be able to travel internationally, to elude detection, and to engage in future terrorist activity."
2) January 22, 2006: Seven Taliban members escaped from the Policharki Prison outside Kabul, Afghanistan. According to the Associated Press' Amir Shah, these convicts used fake hand stamps like those used to distinguish visitors from inmates.
"There were so many visitors at the jail on the Sunday that the prisoners exploited the guards' confusion and sneaked out," said Deputy Justice Minister Mohammad Qasim Hashimzai.
Afghan authorities arrested 10 guards for colluding in the Taliban fighters' escape from their 16- and 17-year prison sentences.
3) January 2006: Two followers of slain Islamic rebel leader Badreddine al-Houthy escaped from a Yemeni prison, according to United Press International. Last December 3, a Yemeni court convicted al-Houthy adherents Yehya Dalimi and Mohammad Moftah of armed insurrection and working with Iranian agents in hopes of "undermining state security and inciting sectarian strife."
4) July 11, 2005: Four al Qaeda operatives escaped the highly fortified U.S. airbase at Bagram, Afghanistan. They are: Syrian Abdullah Hashimi, Kuwaiti Omar al Faruq (AKA Mahmoud Ahmad Mohammed), Saudi Mahmoud Fathami, and Libyan Mohammed Hassan. These four men appeared on videotape last October 18 on Al Arabiya television. Claiming to be at a Taliban camp in the Afghan outback, these terrorists bragged about picking the locks in their cells, hiding on the base for several days, then fleeing with the help of Taliban colleagues.
Hassan, the Libyan escapee, appeared in an online video posted just last Thursday. As Agence France Press reported, he seemingly led a successful attack on Afghan soldiers. Then, on the battlefield, he pointed his rifle at the cadavers of these American allies.
"Several apostates were killed while the others were taken captive or ran away," after the January 7 confrontation, Hassan said. "They have died like dogs and [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai will not be of any help for them," he continued. Hassan also threatened to "leave America in the mud."
Hassan and his comrades' getaway from the well-guarded American facility mystified rank-and-file Afghans. "As far as I know, a mosquito cannot get out of the Bagram base," pharmacist Imran Mujahid told the Los Angeles Times' Paul Watson. "Then how could these people get out and escape?"
Escapee Omar al-Faruq is considered the highest-ranking al Qaeda member ever caught in Southeast Asia. He collaborated with Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda's Indonesian franchise, which staged the October 12, 2002, Bali nightclub bombing that killed 202 and injured some 300 people. JI also bombed dozens of Christian churches across Indonesia. Al-Faruq plotted attacks against American embassies in Asia and tried to take flight lessons in the Philippines so he could commandeer an airplane for a suicide mission.
"He's a very committed, very intelligent man," Rohan Gunaratna of Singapore's Institute for Defense and Strategic Studies told the Christian Science Monitor's Dan Murphy last November 7. "I expect him to be deeply involved with Al Qaeda again, now that he's free."
5) November 2004: Mushtaq Ahmad fled a Pakistani jail, according to officials the Associated Press cited in a January 12, 2005, dispatch. Ahmad had been arrested for plotting two assassination attempts on Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. While no one was hurt in the December 14, 2003 attack, an assault that Christmas Day spared Musharraf but killed as many as 13 others.
6) April 10, 2004: 53 inmates escaped the Philippines Basilan Provincial Jail. A sizeable but undetermined number of them are considered Abu Sayyaf members. Eleven were recaptured, and eight were killed, while the violence injured three guards. The fugitives fled with two rifles and a shotgun.
7) July 14, 2003: Three terrorists broke out of Philippine National Police headquarters in Quezon City. They included Abu Sayyaf extremist Merang Abante. He allegedly participated in the kidnapping of Jeffrey Schilling of Oakland, California, who later was freed.
Abdulmukim Ong Edris, another Abu Sayyaf agent, is thought to have helped kidnap 20 victims, including three Americans, on the resort island of Palawan. As Richard C. Paddock explained in the August 9, 2003 Los Angeles Times, "Guillermo Sobero, a tourist from Corona, California, was beheaded, and missionary Martin Burnham of Wichita, Kansas, was killed during a rescue raid." Edris' other alleged bombings injured at least 24 and killed 12 people, including a fatal October 2, 2002, attack on U.S. Special Forces Sergeant First Class Mark Wayne Jackson, age 40.
Jemaah Islamiyah bombsmith Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi also ran. "Mike the Bombmaker," as he was nicknamed, had been sentenced to a 10-to-12-year prison term for acquiring more than a ton of explosives he hoped to detonate at embassies in Singapore. He confessed to the nearly simultaneous bombings in December 2000 of a Manila transit station and four other civilian targets. Those explosions killed 22 and injured 100. Police eventually found al-Ghozi, an Indonesian, and killed him.
8) April 11, 2003: 10 al Qaeda agents suspected in the U.S.S. Cole bombing left a military intelligence lockup in Aden, Yemen, reportedly through a hole in a bathroom wall. All of these terrorists were recaptured within the next 11 months. Perhaps they spent that time at home reading the Koran. Of course, they could have spent almost a year raising money, recruiting new terrorists, training inductees, or even committing mayhem for which they never were caught. As was mentioned above, the U.S.S Cole attack's ringleader, Jamal al-Badawi, joined this breakout; he, too, was caught, only to escape a second time.
9) September 2, 2002: Chechen terrorist Ahkmed Magomedov slipped from his handcuffs and vanished from the prosecutor's office in Makhachkala, capitol of the predominantly Muslim Russian Republic of Dagestan. He is tied to seven terrorist incidents including a January 2000 bombing that killed seven Russian soldiers and injured four more, and a May 9, 2002, explosion in Kaspiysk that wiped out 43 people.
10) August 7, 2002: 12 Pakistanis and a Kyrgyzstani, all suspected Taliban or al Qaeda thugs, escaped a Kabul detention facility. According to Pamela Constable's account in the August 21, 2002, Washington Post, "The fugitives hijacked three trucks, beat a farmer who tried to stop them with his bird-hunting rifle, killed three soldiers with the soldiers' own weapons, and took a local policeman hostage." As they retreated to a rock quarry, they pounded the kidnapped cop for wearing pants and not wearing a beard. The escapees used three stolen Kalashnikov rifles to fight about 100 Afghan soldiers who found them and killed them.
11) June 29, 2002: Al Qaeda operative Walid Abdullah Habib escaped a prison in Aden, Yemen. Officials there believe Habib, a Yemeni, fought U.S. forces in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in December 2001, before he was captured trying to sneak back into Yemen along its border with Oman.
12) December 19, 2001: 20 al Qaeda members scattered after a violent uprising on a bus carrying 48 prisoners from Parachinar, Pakistan, to a hoosegow in Kohat. The one-hour gun battle in and around the bus one of four vehicles in a convoy transporting 156 detainees killed six terrorists and seven Pakistani soldiers and injured at least a dozen on both sides, Paul Salopek and Lisa Anderson reported in the next day's Chicago Tribune.
Beyond these escapes, several attempts have failed, but not before killing and wounding many inmates and guards. Philippine officials, for instance, thwarted a March 15, 2005, jailbreak bid in Manila, but not before its two Abu Sayyaf leaders and 15 others were killed.
U.S. officials could prevent more such chaos by canceling plans to shrink Guantanamo's current terrorist population 68 percent from 510 to 164 by repatriating 110 Afghans, 129 Saudis, and 107 Yemenis, as Josh White and Robin Wright revealed in the August 5, 2005, Washington Post. In fact, the Pentagon plans to ship these Afghan Guantanamites to Policharki Prison the very same facility from which seven Taliban operatives escaped last January 22!
"We, the U.S., don't want to be the world's jailer," Matthew Waxman, a Pentagon detainee-affairs official, told the Post. "We think a more prudent course is to shift that burden onto our coalition partners."
The stakes are too high and too many people could be killed to risk more overseas terrorist escapes, just to save a few million dollars in Koranically correct meals and laundered uniforms. There is ample room in the $2.77 trillion 2007 federal budget to offset the expense of indefinitely detaining as many bloodthirsty terrorists as can be shoehorned into Guantanamo.
More than Sing Sing, Leavenworth, or even a re-opened Alcatraz, Guantanamo is a dream location for harboring terrorists. Detainees are guarded by well-armed, patriotic American GIs unencumbered by bottomless anti-Americanism. Any combatant who tried to walk out would face hundreds of unsympathetic sailors with machine guns at the ready. If he eluded them, he would have to evade snipers in watchtowers, leap twin rows of barbed-wire fences, then tiptoe through the landmines installed by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. If he reached the beach, Haiti is only 110 miles southeast. Happy swimming, Hafez!
Of course, craftier enemy combatants could avoid these hazards by tunneling out. If they actually burrowed into the Caribbean, they are more than welcome to terrorize the sharks. As the CSP's Robert McLean says, "If there is a more secure location to detain these terrorists than Guantanamo, I would like to know."
Naturally, turning Guantanamo into a Yucca Mountain for terrorists will make Leftists wail. Let them. It's hard to believe, but the shrieks of liberals are easier on the ears than the blasts of bombs.
Deroy Murdock is a New York-based columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service and a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation in Arlington, Va.